Many times small 3A high schools, like Payson, take a backseat to larger, metropolitan 5A schools when it comes to facilities, equipment and technology available to coaches and athletes.
But that's not the situation with sports medicine.
Payson High School is at the top of the heap among Arizona schools -- including those in the 4A and 5A ranks -- in medical technology, treatment and preventive care.
Payson High's ascension to becoming the best in the state occurred about two years ago with the arrival of Rim Country Sports Medicine.
Heading up the team is Dr. Olivia Morris, an osteopathic board certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and surgery.
Also key to the success of Rim Country Sports Medicine are Mike Barland, director of physical therapy, and athletic trainer Jerod Torrey.
Although Torrey is employed by the Payson Regional Medical Center he works full time at Payson High School treating and rehabilitating student athletes.
PRMC marketing director Cory Houghton said Torrey was assigned to the high school in 2005 as part of the sports medicine program aimed at limiting athletic injuries and rehabilitating those who have been sidelined.
PHS athletic director David Bradley breathed a huge sigh of relief when PRMC officials first told him about Rim Country Sports Medicine's arrival in Payson and that the school would be getting an athletic trainer at no expense to the district.
"Having them is one of the best things to happen to our sports programs," he said. "With Jerod on campus, there is a lot less to worry about."
Coaches also praise the efforts of the RCSM, saying it lessens their burdens and also allows them to concentrate on their coaching.
"No more taping ankles, filling water jugs and things like that," said football, basketball and track assistant coach Kenny Hayes. "Our job is 50 times easier and Jerod is super helpful."
Only last year, Dr. Morris, Barland and Torrey teamed up to treat a Lady Longhorn basketball player who had seriously injured her knee.
The teen feared she would have to undergo surgery and would be lost for the remainder of the season.
But those at RCSM treated her and designed a rehabilitation program that had her back on the court in less than a month.
The presence of RCSM on campus and in Payson also lessens the worries of student athletes' parents.
Dr. Morris and Torrey attend every home football game prowling the sidelines positioning themselves to watch every blow and be readily available if needed.
"Jerod is the first responder and if an injury is serious, I'm there to help out," Dr. Morris said.
The pair's job is to not only treat injured players, but also to be able to diagnose the injury and how it occurred.
"We watch how the player was hit and how he went down; the direction of force," Torrey said. "That tells us a lot about how serious it is and how we should treat the athlete."
If an injury requires surgery, Dr. Morris is available to perform it at PRMC, which is equipped with the most modern technology.
Dr. Morris is also a highly accomplished surgeon.
She has successfully performed advanced arthroscopic surgery, knee and ligament reconstructions, total joint replacements and trauma and fracture care.
Once the surgery is performed, Barland is there to design and oversee a rehabilitation program designed to get the athlete back in the game.
When the athlete does return to the field or court, Torrey has a complete history of the injury and is available to continue the rehab process and to take all the necessary precautions to ensure there are no further injuries.
Only a few years ago, many parents took their children to Phoenix for surgery, treatment and rehabilitation believing that's where the best care was available.
Not so with the arrival of RCSM -- Payson High can now boast of having one of the finest sports medicine teams in the country.
Free sports medicine clinic
Dr. Morris will host a free sports medicine clinic, open to all Rim Country athletes, from 9 a.m. to noon, beginning Sept. 8 and continuing each Saturday thereafter. The clinic will be held at Dr. Morris' office located at 126 East Main St., Suite A.